Alberta Museums Association Conference 2018

KH Team Members Emily Keyes, Nicole Marion-Patola, and Connie Wren-Gunn attended the 2018 Alberta Museums Association Conference in September 2018. Below is a reflection by Nicole Marion-Patola.

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) held its 2018 Annual Conference from September 20-22 at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Canmore, Alberta. With the conference theme “Cultivating Connections: Museums and the Environment,” the weekend brought together a unique assortment of professionals, including environmental activists, teachers, a physician, and a geologist, in addition to museum and heritage professionals.

Throughout the conference, speakers highlighted the important role that museums play as educators and their responsibility to promote environmental sustainability and to encourage our communities to act against climate change. Significantly, speakers demonstrated how small actions can have resounding impacts. In the opening plenary, Dr. Joe Vipond (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment) emphasized how significant changes in governmental policy, such as the Alberta government’s promise to phase out all coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, can be realized by the hard work of a few individuals. Kathy Coutts and Jaime-Brett Sine (Okotoks Museum and Archives) demonstrated how a small museum running on a shoe-string budget can create free and accessible environmental education programs by offering nature walks. At the annual awards ceremony on the evening of September 20th, the AMA launched its short video series, “Taking Action Against Climate Change,” available for free here:

Audience engagement appeared to be a side-theme of the conference, as many presentations focused on creative ways for museums and other educators to initiate conversations about any difficult topic. The team from The Rockies Institute brought in graphic artist Sam Hester to illustrate their talk. Kristina Barnes and Aaron Park of the Calgary Stampede had their session use props to uncover the various traditional uses of the bison. Taking the conference theme literally, attendees were sent outside in the fall snow to engage with nature for their choice of several walking tours of the Bow River Valley and historic Canmore.

The highlights of the conference had to be the evening entertainment. During the awards ceremony, The Wardens, a Banff-based trio of park wardens mixed story-telling and music. Throughout the weekend attendees were able to explore the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada, both in Banff, and the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre after-hours. Not many people can say that they have roasted marshmallows inside a National Historic Site!

Addressing a topic that is largely considered to be taboo in a resource-dependent province like Alberta, the 2018 AMA conference encouraged attendees to think of creative, entertaining, and simple ways to get communities engaged in discussions about climate change.

Sam Hester, graphic artist, illustrates The Rockies Institute session “Fire and Ice: the Art of Climate Change.”

KH Western Lead, Emily Keyes, makes smores at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Caroline Hedin (Bison Public Outreach Officer, Banff National Park) takes conference attendees on a snowy walk to learn about the bison reintroduction program at Banff National Park.


Image Credit: J. Thompson, “View of Three Sisters Mountains, Canmore, Alberta,” ca. 1888s-1890s, Glenbow Archives, NA-937-2.